State of Education: The Teacher Shortage Is Real

“The impending teacher shortage is the most critical education issue we will face in the next decade.”

David Price

This is no surprise to those that have been watching and studying this alarming trend. The Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE), publishes in-depth research findings around the teacher workforce.  As a recruiter, I have been on the ground and seen firsthand what the data is screaming out to us. Just yesterday I spoke with an Assistant Director of Career Services at a local college. She was supporting a student that completed the teaching program and has now decided not to become a teacher. It seems this is also an emerging trend. Richard Ingersoll shared his key findings in, The shape of the teaching workforce (2018). We’ll explore just a few. 

What’s impacting the teacher workforce?

Increased student enrollment

This is a perfect example of policy impact and education reform. The decision to decrease class size across public, private and charter schools naturally warranted needing more teachers. The teacher demands in the areas of Special Education, English as a Second Language (ESL), enrichment, and reading teachers also increased the demand. These trends in teacher demand are important and should inform national recruitment efforts, as well as drive strategic planning for preparation programs around recruitment.

Before Five Exodus

According to Ingersoll’s research, 44% of new teachers leave within five years. The level of churn is nearly impossible to keep up with. Attend an education conference anywhere in the country and recruiters are experiencing the same thing. Let’s take a step back and see what recruitment is up against.

  • Non-competitive pay
  • Student loan debt
  • High demands & minimal work-life balance 
  • Culture & Climate challenges 
  • Limited career advancement options
  • Limited school and district support

This is a hard reality and truly painful for me to even write about. But, it must be exposed in order to bring collective solutions to address this level of unhealthy attrition. I recall some years ago a new teacher literally leaving on the spot. Collecting as many of her items as possible, throwing them in a garbage bag, and leaving. 

The Ingersoll research cites the churning of minority teachers is staggering, there remains a parity gap (51 percent of public school students are minorities, and only 19.9 percent of their teachers are), there has been a dramatic surge in minority teacher hires. But these same teachers are among the most likely to leave the profession. This is in part because they tend to be placed in struggling schools with limited resources and support. In addition, they are surrounded by inexperienced teachers, so the opportunities to be mentored or seek guidance is limited. Office of Civil Rights data shows that districts serving children of color are about four times more likely to be assigned, uncertified teachers. 

Data Doesn’t Lie

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles annual attrition rates by industry and region. The education industry has seen an upward trend since 2015.

  • 2015-31.2%
  • 2016- 31.4%
  • 2017-32.6%
  • 2018-3.0%
  • 2019-33.3%

To give this data some context and perspective every organization should experience what is considered,” healthy turnover.” The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines healthy as 10% attrition regardless of industry. However, most industries fall between 12%-20%. It is clear that the education industry has been functioning in an unhealthy space. The national data shakes out to nine out of every 10 teachers. Unfortunately, the impact of COVID is yet to be seen.  

The purpose here is to deepen awareness, increase urgency, and ultimately advocate for the students this impacts most, students of color. The bottom line is that teacher turnover harms students both socially, emotionally, and academically. Interestingly the research on how turnover directly impacts students is not as robust as one would think.

Here is what we do know.

Shortages and turnover also often translate into schools needing to hire more alternatively certified teachers (those holding a teaching certificate or license earned outside of a traditional college preparation program), and fewer qualified and experienced teachers (Dee & Goldhaber, 2017). One study found that as many as 30% of math and science teachers in schools with large numbers of students of color were alternatively certified, compared with just 12% in schools with mostly White students (Carver-Thomas & Darling-Hammond, 2017). 

Let’s collectively give attention and lend our voices to this most important issue. This indirectly and directly impacts the health and wellness of the profession.

Dare 2 Be Well!


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